Celtics

Shaquille O'Neal (foot) out indefinitely

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Shaquille O'Neal (foot) out indefinitely

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MILWAUKEE The timetable for Shaquille O'Neal's return to the lineup has fluctuated about as much as the Boston Celtics' roster in recent weeks.

The C's roster is coming together, for sure.

O'Neal?

Not so much.

It seems just when one ailment is on the mend, another one flares up.

The right Achilles tendon injury that O'Neal suffered last month is healing fine, but now he's once again bothered by some right foot soreness.

Now it's to the point where the Celtics have no idea when the 7-foot-1 center, who turned 39 years old Sunday, will return to action.

When asked about O'Neal and a likely return date, coach Doc Rivers acknowledged he had no idea.

"O'Neal worked out with us the other day," Rivers said. "Some of the pain returned."

Rivers spoke with Ed Lacerte, the team's head trainer.

"Eddie just said don't expect him anytime soon," Rivers said.

The uncertainty surrounding O'Neal, who missed his 13th consecutive game Sunday, and his return to the floor is not a major issue right now.

Boston remains atop the Eastern Conference standings with 21 games remaining, holding a comfortable three-game lead over the second-place Bulls.

For the Celtics, the concern about O'Neal will be in April and May, which is when they'll need every healthy body available for the playoffs.

Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy have proven themselves as solid NBA players, but the C's will need more than Krstic and Murphy to bring home Banner 18.

Jermaine O'Neal (left knee surgery) is making progress, but there's no telling when he'll be back or how effective he'll be upon returning to the court.

And while there's still time for Shaquille O'Neal to return in time and be productive leading into the playoffs, having missed so many games makes it unlikely that he'll return and pick up immediately where he left off.

O'Neal has started 36 games for the Celtics, and is averaging 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds while playing 20.7 minutes per game.

While the numbers are career-lows, they fail to show the impact he has had on the C's when healthy.

With O'Neal in the starting lineup, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were enjoying career seasons shooting the ball.

Coincidence?

They didn't think so.

"His presence commands so much attention," Allen told CSNNE.com recently. "With a player like that on the floor, it opens things up for so many of us in terms of getting good shot attempts."

Added Pierce: "He definitely makes my job and Ray's job a lot easier out there. We need the big fella, for sure."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.

Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

CLEVELAND – Jayson Tatum has seen plenty of games featuring Cleveland’s LeBron James.

And in the Boston Celtics’ preparation for Tuesday night’s matchup, the 19-year-old rookie had seen plenty of James on film.

But facing him, up close and personal, was something entirely different.

“He’s way bigger than I thought,” Tatum said. “He’s way better than I imagined. That’s the reason why he is who he is.”

MORE:

James’ play was among the key factors in Cleveland handing Boston a 102-99 loss on Tuesday night.

But Tatum showed he too has some big-time potential by finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds which included some nifty drives to the basket as well as showing the ability to hold his own on the glass in terms of rebounding the basketball.

The last Celtics rookie to post a double-double on opening night?

That was Larry Bird back in 1980, helping the Celtics to a 114-106 win over the Houston Rockets.

What’s even crazier?

Bird had 14 points and 10 rebounds in that Rockets game, too.

Tatum’s solid performance didn’t seem in the making in the first half when Tatum had missed all five of his shot attempts while tallying just two points.

But as the Celtics mounted their comeback, Tatum’s play was a key to the team’s improved play.

“Just being more relaxed” was how Tatum described his improved play in the second half.

Tatum added, “first half, I think I was nervous and anxious. And then the game slowed down for me. That helped out a lot.”

And the Celtics will need even more from Tatum going forward after Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury that will keep him sidelined indefinitely.

There was plenty of room for him to improve upon following Tuesday’s game.

But for the most part, head coach Brad Stevens liked what he saw from the rookie.

“Jayson was pretty good,” Stevens said. “He did a pretty good job for a first game. That’s pretty hard to do, to be thrown into this environment, first game and play that well.”

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